(On Father's Day each of the four ministers at West-Ark shared "a father's perspective." Brad Pistole, youth minister, spoke briefly from the perspective of a father of preschool children. He has two. Ted Edwards spoke briefly from the perspective of a father of teens. Two of his three children are teens. Roy Dunavin spoke briefly from the perspective of a grandfather. He has sixteen grandchildren from preschool to young adult. David Chadwell gave concluding comments.)

by Brad Pistole

God uses many different situations in our lives to get our attention.
He uses many different methods to get us to look at our current spiritual condition and He tries to keep us focused on that condition. We either choose to listen or not listen.

To me, having the blessing of young children is the best method He's thrown my way.

I learned in college as an elementary education major, with a special emphasis on early childhood development, that up to 80% of a child's personality is developed by age 6. Please listen to that once again. Up to 80% of a child's personality is developed by age 6. Do you find that hard to believe? I did, too, until I had my first child. My children teach me lessons every day about how quickly they pick up on the behaviors, words, and actions around them.

Do we realize as fathers and as parents what this means? The years that follow the first 6 years of our children's lives leave us with very little opportunity to make serious changes in them. Do we realize how crucial the first few years of our children's lives are?

I must admit, as the father of preschool children, I realize how true this really is and I see how critically wrong our world approaches the concept of the family and raising children. We seem to feel that our children don't really start to pick up on things until they're 3 or 4 years old, or even until they start kindergarten. So we justify very quickly sending them off to daycare or leaving them with babysitters or plugging them into after-school programs as we watch other people raise our children for us. We also use the excuse, "I'll stop watching this or saying this or doing this later. They're too young to pick up on it now. I'm an adult, I can handle it."

Our line of thinking is usually this, "We need to get ahead so we can spend more time with them in the years to come. You know, when things get rough during the teen years. If I work harder now, I'll be able to do more with them then like go to ball games, take them to movies, take vacations, etc." And then, before you know it our 3-4 year old is 13-14 and we wake up and think, "where has all of the time gone and what's happening to my teen? How did they ever end up like this?"

We continue to watch unbelievable things happen to young people in our country, and we've looked for every excuse in the books for their actions in order to take the focus off what we are doing as parents. We've blamed it on movies, guns, video games, violence and sex on TV. But have we stopped long enough to realize that we as parents and adults are the ones that have sent them off to the movies, we've paid for and put the computers, televisions, and telephones in their rooms and by doing so have practically asked them to not spend time with us. And most of all, it is our lack of involvement with them that is sending them to these other activities to find some kind of connection and feeling of acceptance.

As I looked deep inside myself and my many faults as a parent of two pre-schoolers, I remember these words from Deuteronomy 6:5-9:
"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

It's really hard to follow these instructions with what we are teaching our kids at the movie theaters of today, and if someone else is raising our children each day, and if we are too tired to play with them when we are home because we've "worked so much."

If there is anything that I have learned from having two young children, it's the fact that it's not the actions of my children that need to change, it's my actions that need to change. After all, they've learned everything they know from me or from someone else that I've allowed to teach them when I was "too busy."

I have found strength as a father, knowing that I will fail often, from the words of this song:

How many times have I turned away?
The number is the same as the sand on the shore;
But every time You've taken me back,
And now I pray You do it once more.

Please take from me my life
When I don't have the strength
To give it away to You.
Please take from me my life
When I don't have the strength
To give it away to You, Jesus.

How many times have I turned away?
The number is the same as the stars in the sky;
But every time You've taken me back,
And now I pray You do it tonight.

-Third Day

My closing advice to any father or parent of a young child is what is recorded in the book of Joshua.

"...To love the Lord your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all of your heart and with all of your soul."           Joshua 22:5

Brad Pistole
20 June 1999

by Ted Edwards


Not long ago, I received an e-mail containing this short illustration (source unknown):

"Just 5 More Minutes..."

While at the park one day, a woman sat down next to a man on a bench near a playground.

"That's my son over there," she said, pointing to a little boy in a red sweater who was gliding down the slide.

"He's a fine looking boy," the man said.
"That's my son on the swing in the blue sweater."
Then, looking at his watch, he called to his son. "What do you say we go, Todd?"

Todd pleaded, "Just five more minutes, Dad. Please? Just five more minutes." The man nodded and Todd continued to swing to his heart's content.

Minutes passed and the father stood and called again to is son. "Time to go now?"

Again Todd pleaded, "Five more minutes, Dad. Just five more minutes." The man smiled and said, "O.K."

"My, you certainly are a patient father," the woman responded.

The man smiled and then said, "My older son Tommy was killed by a drunk driver last year while he was riding his bike near here. I never spent much time with Tommy and now I'd give anything for just five more minutes with him. I've vowed not to make the same mistake with Todd. He thinks he has five more minutes to swing. The truth is, I get five more minutes to watch him play."

Teenagers are discovering who they are and what they think and believe. They are in the process of personalizing things and concepts told to them by parents, teachers, and other adults. Often times they will accept or reject everything from values and standards to styles and politics to religious beliefs about God, Jesus, the Bible and eternity.

This can be a time of alienation, hostility and rebellion but ---
it doesn't have to be that way.

Personalities, environment, and parental styles all influence this process.

As we head toward a new Millennium, I'm constantly reminded that my children are growing up in a different world than I grew up in during the 1960's and '70's.

Because this is true ... Every home has a certain amount of tension and conflict over issues like curfew and dating, taking or not taking a job after school, smoking, drinking, or drugs, styles of clothes and hair, how many body parts can be pierced, etc.

But I still believe Proverbs 22:6 is true,
"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."

By looking at that verse, someone might assume that children raised in a godly home will make it through adolescence unscathed and unscarred from the world's influence.

Some even feel that casualties in this spiritual war are always someone else's kids, not ours.

Just about the time we think everything's going great in our family, the police car rolls up in front of our house or we get the call from the Police station - regarding our children. Or our son or daughter makes an announcement that we'd thought we'd never hear as their parent.

So, if or when this happens to you as a parent of a teen, "What did you do wrong?"

Maybe nothing, since our heavenly Father can have disobedient children ...
(Remember Adam & Eve; the Prodigal Son)

We realize that loving care does not always "succeed" in producing righteous children.


  1. As parents we have stiff competition for the influence of our children. We must take a proactive role in developing a positive family climate that will help to combat against the negative, ungodliness in society.

  2. Parents need to be aware of the needs their children have by being there for them. Real life in 1999 and beyond presents tough dilemmas with difficult decisions for our young people. "Home Alone" may make for a funny or cute movie theme, but it's not healthy or appropriate for children of any age.

  3. Unsupervised kids are more likely to experiment with drugs, alcohol, and sex than their supervised counterparts.

1 Peter 3:8-9
Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.

Ted Edwards
20 June 1999

by David Chadwell

My father died six years ago. He had a dream, a dream that he tried to make happen. He had two sons. He wanted both sons and their children living in the same community with him. That dream never happened.

This last Tuesday we had a reunion of my immediate family. Mom, Jack, and I were there. Two of Jack's three children were there, and all of his grandchildren but two. Two of my three children were there, and all of my grandchildren but one.

We spent the late afternoon until dark with the children playing in the large front yard of my childhood home. The adults played with the kids and visited with each other. The kids got to know each other and realize that they were family. As I watched, several times I thought how thrilled Dad would have been to watch that scene were he alive and without Alzheimer's.

It also confirmed something that I have thought a lot about in the past few months. The greatest power of a father in a family is his influence. The greatest family influence a father has is in the memories that he builds in his children.

  1. We fathers are so easily deceived by the values of our every day world.
    1. Through deception we accept an upside down set of priorities and values.
      1. It is more important to give your child an exceptional bed and excellent food than it is to show him or her your love.
      2. It is more important to give your child a wonderful house than it is to spend time with him or her.
      3. It is more important to give your child the opportunity to be in countless activities than it is to build a sharing, caring relationship with him or her.
      4. It is more important to give your child his or her desires than it is to discipline fairly with love because you care about the person he or she becomes.
      5. We fathers are easily deceived into believing that what we can afford to buy for our families is more important than giving ourselves to our families.
    2. The time that our children are at home is actually a very small part of our lives.
      1. When our children are living at home, we think it is a lifetime, but it is far, far from a lifetime.
      2. In adolescence our children begin the process of becoming a distinct self, an independent person.
      3. When a young adult child leaves home, he or she can be as different and as independent as he or she chooses.
    3. When our children are living at home, we have a lot of options.
      1. We can discipline in a variety of ways.
      2. We can use our adult advantages to manipulate, intimidate, and coerce.
      3. At this stage, we think we have all kinds of power over our children.
      4. When they are gone, and sometimes even before they are gone, we learn that we have very little power over our children.

  2. What are your strongest memories of your father?
    1. Whatever those memories are, good or bad, they are the living influence of your father in your life.
      1. Whether you admit it or not, those memories touch your mind and your heart in the most private moments of your life.
        1. Maybe those memories bring a tear to your eye and a lump to your throat as you remember again how grateful you are that he was your Dad.
        2. Maybe those memories bring anger and a vow that you will never be like your dad.
        3. Maybe there are no memories--just a void and a deep regret that you never knew him.
      2. The simple truth is this: no father, present or absent, is a neutral, meaningless force in his child's life.
    2. What memories of you will live in your adult child's life?
      1. Everyday your child is at home is an opportunity to build a memory.
      2. You never know when you are building memories.
      3. You cannot even identify the moments when you are building your most powerful memories.
      4. But be certain of this fact: the most powerful influence you have on your child when he or she leaves home will be in his or her memories.
      5. Those memories will live in your children and impact the lives of your grandchildren long after you have died.

No memory has the power of this memory: Dad was a fair, kind, loving, responsible person who was genuine and godly in mind, heart, and behavior.

As God prepared to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness, he wondered if he should tell Abraham about His plans. He decided that He would for the following reason:

Genesis 18:19 For I have chosen (known) him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him." (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

If God wondered if He should inform you of a decision, would He decide that He should inform you for that same reason?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 20 June 1999

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